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Camels And Llamas

( Originally Published 1936 )

The Camels and Llamas form a well-marked family in this group, distinguished by many interesting characters, chief among them being the padded hoofs in all species, and, in the Camels, either one or two humps high up on the back. In form the Camel is the most grotesque of all animals, the long neck carried in a sharp curve, the head held high, in a horizontal position, the long knotty legs, and the large humps, giving it a unique appearance. The hump is not supported on a bony structure, as might be sup-posed, but is simply a large projection of flesh that is thought to store up nourishment for use on long journeys. At any rate, the Camel is judged by the condition of the hump, this being flabby and soft when the animal is in poor condition.

There are two existing species, one the Dromedary, or single-humped Camel of Africa, and the other the Bactrian Camel of the northern part of Asia; the Llamas are all South American.

Arabian Camel (Camelus dromedarius)

The One-Humped Camel, or Dromedary (the latter name being used for the swift-running breed used for riding), is a large animal about six feet high and nine feet long from the nose to the end of the tail, only known as domesticated in Arabia and North Africa. In hot and waterless regions this animal is absolutely indispensable to man, horses being unable to live in certain sections of Africa. Owing to the peculiar construction of the stomach, it is able to go without water for several days. The speed of the Dromedary is very considerable, though not so great as that of a good horse, and it is able to keep up a slow trot for hours at a time. It is the most unwilling of servants, however, groaning and making pro-tests every time it is loaded. The Camel has a singular manner of lying down, kneeling upon both the front and the hind legs, and as a protection to the delicate joints, the knees are covered with large horny pads of thickened skin. The nostrils are long narrow slits which can be closed at will in order to keep out the sand, and the eyes are heavily fringed with long and thick lashes. The foot is eminently adapted to traverse the soft and yielding sand of the desert, is divided into two toes, armed with heavy hoofs, the under side consisting of but one soft pad, which stretches out when the animal bears its weight upon it, but, being elastic, returns to its original size when the foot is raised. See Plate 21, Fig. 102.

Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus)

The Bactrian, or Two-humped Camel, is a native of Northern and Central Asia, where it is used as a beast of burden more than for riding. It is a larger and more heavily built animal than the Arabian Camel, and in winter is covered with very long woolly hair, which in summer is shed completely. From this hair the natives of India and Persia make very beautiful articles of dress, principally shawls. The Bactrian Camel is quite striking in appearance, some varieties being a light golden-brown, others a deep rich brown, almost black, while still others are practically white. The hair on the lower part of the neck and on the front legs is much longer than on the rest of the body, and hangs down in great fringes. See Plate 22, Fig. 104.

From time immemorial the Camel has been used as a beast of burden in the East, and many references to it are made in the Bible and other records of antiquity. At one time they were common in North America, as we know from finding fossil remains of many different species. One known as the Giraffe Camel had a neck almost as long as that of the animal from which it is named, but otherwise was camel-like in shape.

Wild Camels of this species are met with in the loneliest parts of the deserts of Central Asia; but whether they are truly wild, or are descendants of animals that have escaped from domestication, has not yet been decisively settled.

Alpaca (Llama pacos)

There are several species of Llama, all South American, and inhabiting the higher and more mountainous regions of that country as far south as Patagonia. They are distinguished from the camels by their smaller size, the absence of humps, much smaller feet, and toes armed with claw-like hoofs, which are divided throughout their entire length. Most of the species are covered with a long heavy wool, which is greatly used by the natives of the country in manufacturing articles of clothing. See Plate 21, Fig. 103. The true Llama is used as a beast of burden, and is known only as a domesticated animal; the Alpaca is kept semi-domesticated for the sake of its wool; the other species are wild.

In Patagonia is found a small and less heavily-furred form known as the Guanaco (Lama guanacus). The fur is soft, short and woolly, a beautiful light brown above and white below. These animals run in large herds and are often preyed upon by pumas and jaguars; the flesh is also eaten by the natives. They are captured by the use of the bolas, the Indians riding the horses in pursuit and throwing the bolas, which is simply two heavy balls of iron or lead connected by a long rope. On approaching the animal, this is swung around above the head and then thrown from the hand, the heavy balls winding around the legs and throwing it to the ground.

Llamas have a singular habit, when irritated, of spitting at any one who disturbs them, and warning signs to this effect are usually seen in zoological collections.

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